Finally, the three activist students came out of the jail with a big smile on their face. Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha walked out of Delhi’s Tihar Jail on Thursday night, two days after the High Court highlighted the distinction between the “right to protest” and terrorist activity, and granted bail.
The Supreme Court said three students could remain on bail but agreed to examine the legal aspects of the Delhi High Court verdict. However, a two-member bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Rama Subramanian said the Supreme Court would examine the bail order, noting that this case could have “pan-India ramifications” because of the way UAPA, or the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, had been interpreted. This will be heard next month, the Supreme Court said as it issued notices to the activists and stressed that the High Court order could not, in the meantime, be used as precedent for other cases.
Their release had been opposed by Delhi Police, which said the High Court, in permitting bail, had “conducted a mini-trial and recorded perverse findings which are contrary to the record”.
At today’s hearing Delhi Police asked the Supreme Court to “stay the (High Court) order because (it) virtually records the acquittal of the accused” and others would seek bail using this as precedent.
“(Delhi) High Court watered down UAPA (and) it had been turned upside down,” Delhi Police claimed. The court acknowledged that discussing all laws in a bail hearing was “something very surprising”, and said: “We agree. There are many questions that arise. The issue is important and can have pan-India ramifications. We would like to issue notice and hear the other side.”
However, the court also noted that bail had, in fact, been granted.
“They (the activists) will not be affected, but we will stay the effect of the High Court order,” it said. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta (appearing for Delhi Police) and senior advocate Kapil Sibal (appearing for the activists) agreed with the court’s decision on both counts.